A trip down D-Street

30th January 1998 at 00:00
DRUG SENSE - A multimedia resource for drug education. New MediaHertfordshire Education Pounds 92.18. Age range: 9-13.


Adrian King reviews two products for educating young people on drugs issues

DrugSense is an excellent new drug education pack including a multimedia CD-Rom (for PC and Mac) and a 48-page teacher's manual with nine classroom lessons.

The CD-Rom features a street scene, depicting police station, arcade, pub, library, school, chemist and hospital. Each building can be "entered" to find out about drug-related situations, medicines and health, attitudes and behaviours, and to practise appropriate skills.

Colourful animations accompany spoken commentaries and instructions from a range of characters who cleverly bring to life the elements of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (formerly the SCAA) guidance for drugs education for key stages 2 and 3.

The activities are varied and the teacher's password-accessed section gives detailed advice and makes it possible to tailor CD content to classroom needs. The booklet contains clear, participative lessons, each with specified links both to drugs education guidance and to national curriculum programmes of study. Legal and illegal drugs are considered alongside medicines without lecturing or directing. This is a ground-breaking resource.

Understanding Drug Issues is drab by comparison, despite its aim to avoid the simplistic "just say no" approach. The authors' contention that to proscribe is to invite either obedience or rebellion underpins their decision to inform, in order to nurture responsible choice-makers. Yet this resource is disappointing.

Activities such as word searches have dubious value, and true-false quizzes can reinforce highly memorable false information. Other suggestions could prove springboards to lively debate.

However, the drug information provided, often in notes to the teachers, is frequently negative and sometimes departs significantly from standard reference works.

More serious is the conflict between the authors' assertions that pupils "should be given credit for their own intelligence and insight" and "their views sought and valued" and the purposes, stated before every exercise "to challenge attitudes" and "to reinforce drug prevention messages". Are all attitudes to be challenged, regardless of their nature?

Teachers may do better with resources that contain the balanced, accurate information called for in SCAA's May 1995 booklet Drugs Education: Curriculum Guidance for Schools.

Adrian King is health educationco-ordinator for Berkshire and thecontact person for the National Health Education Liaison Group

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